X-Men 3: First-impressions

I gave in to the temptation tonight, took a break from writing, and decided to rest my weary head with two hours of good big screen adventure… X-Men the Last Stand.

Instead, I sat there and watched Ratner and Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn spoil the efforts of so many talented individuals, effectively spoiling the best adventure franchise running. I should have gone to M:I3 or Over the Hedge instead.

The film basically serves as a giant compliment to director Brian Singer’s abilities, by showing what happens when he’s not on board. Oh, Brian, if only you could have put Superman Returns on hold…

This matters to me because the X-franchise was an unusually good franchise. Both of the previous X-Men films surpassed my expectations. I had no history with the comics, but the films very quickly made me believe in the characters and care about them. And recently, I’ve become a fan of Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” series, which features his signature style of smart writing.

And then this one comes along and just starts spoiling the storylines of characters that the first two films worked so hard to build. There are scenes that change the makeup of the X-Men team dramatically, scenes that should be full of emotion and drama, that end up being little more than effects spectacles.

I was worried that Bret Ratner was the wrong guy for the job, and thus I wasn’t surprised to find that his direction lacked inspiration. Some of the critics are praising Ratner’s work, but there wasn’t a single scene in this film that drew me in. Everything was far too rushed.

But the script… for crying out loud.

  • Too many characters.
  • One-liners that provoke groans rather than laughter.
  • Characters who lose most of the humanity and dimension they had in the first two.
  • Villains who, from the moment they appear onscreen, have ceased to be the slightest bit scary. (Ian McKellen didn’t have an ounce of menace in this one. He just looked silly. It’s all in how you film him.)
  • And the war scenes are just noise and violence for the sake of spectacle.

I could start picking away at the things that don’t make sense about the story, but why start?

This is the worst franchise collapse I’ve experienced since Alien 3. I enjoyed it more than Star Trek V (the one where God ends up chasing Kirk around a planet) and it’s much better than Catwoman. (I never saw the Superman sequels, but I’ve heard that one fell pretty hard and fast too.)

It’s really too bad. It’s a rare thrill when somebody like Brian Singer or Joss Whedon can take a world as imaginative as the X-Men world and make it compelling, funny, scary, and full of characters with interesting storylines. And it’s sad when someone comes along and lets all of the air out of the balloon.

Makes me wonder if I should stop hoping for the return of the Firefly/Serenity series. At least it came to a close without any disappontments. If the studio decided to bring it back with the wrong people at writing the script, as Universal did here, that would be far worse than abandoning the property and leaving us with the successes we’ve already enjoyed.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Stuart B

    So will there be a fourth Xmen cast movie or just the planned Wolverine movie?

    IF…IF they were smart, they’d do both, and eventually merge the two into some super movie…Wolvie3/Xmen6, with a cameo from Spidey and Human Torch.

    Alas, I have no executive power…

  • wngl

    Zak Penn earned my perpetual enmity when he pointed a flare gun at Werner Herzog in The Mystery at Loch Ness (I think that’s the title; if you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend this poor attempt at a “mockumentary”.)

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Thanks. I remember seeing the WB logo before the film. Must have been attached to a trailer.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Ah. I took your line about having no history with the comics and extrapolated it to mean that you still have no history with them. My bad.

    Oh, and re: your last line about Warner etc., these films were actually produced by Fox. And FWIW, Zak Penn (one of The Last Stand‘s two credited writers) has a “story” credit on X2, though the “screenplay” is credited to three other writers — including David Hayter, who also wrote the screenplay for the original X-Men.

    (According to the IMDB, X2‘s other two credited screenplay writers, Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty, both have screenplay credit on Bryan Singer’s upcoming Superman Returns, for whatever that’s worth.)

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Joss has been writing the comic book series Astonishing X-Men for a while now. And they’re great. Much better than this film. You should go back to the start of his series and check it out.

    The plot about “the cure” in this film was a severe mishandling of Joss’s story.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Joss Whedon? He doesn’t seem to have any X-Men credits at the IMDb.


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